Archive for May, 2013

“We just look after it for you”, by Gina Mills, Marketing Officer

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum’s Head of Fundraising, Louise Bird, and the Forestry Commission’s communications team at Westonbirt, Katrina Podlewska and Gina Mills, are currently in the USA, visiting their counterparts at arboretums and botanic gardens to find out who their visitors are, how they fundraise, and to learn from some of the best. The trip has been funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.

“It’s your park, we just look after it for you.”
Central Park Conservancy leaflet

If you look at a map of Manhattan, it’s easy to imagine Central Park is all grass, as the flat green square might suggest.

In fact, trees are everywhere in Central Park, dominating the landscape.

In the area called ‘The Ramble’, you’re lead through undulating paths amongst the oaks native to New York City.

Turn one corner of this naturalistic landscape, and suddenly you catch a glimpse of a boating lake, glittering through the trees.

It was a surprise, but made me think of times at Westonbirt when I’ve turned a corner or approached a planting from a new direction and realised just how well thought out our landscape is.

The same care and attention to detail is true of the design and ongoing management of Central Park.

My main impression of the park was actually more about the restorative wellbeing effects of being outside and amongst the trees.

There is something uplifting about Central Park being at the heart of Manhattan. After the hustle and bustle of the busier areas of the city, my heart was lifted by the experience – for many New Yorkers the same must be true, and Central Park is their backyard, looked after for them by the Central Park Conservancy.

Following my visit I am in no doubt as to how important the park is to making New York so special and for contributing to the wellbeing of millions of people – trees play a leading role in this.

Links
Central Park Conservancy: www.centralparknyc.org

Plants and people, by Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum’s Head of Fundraising, Louise Bird, and the Forestry Commission’s communications team at Westonbirt, Katrina Podlewska and Gina Mills, are currently in the USA, visiting their counterparts at arboretums and botanic gardens to find out who their visitors are, how they fundraise, and to learn from some of the best. The trip has been funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.

The strapline for the New York Botanical Garden – ‘A place where plants and people come together’ – identifies a focus for people in the landscape and work of this spectacular 250 acre garden containing one million plants.

The early goal of NYBG was to ‘create an oasis of tranquillity and learning’ and this continues today. A visit shows that tranquillity, science and learning can fit easily within one visitor offer.

For example, the Ruth Rea Howell family garden encourages schools and families to ‘grow their own’ in plots – marked out by handmade signs created by children who use the space.

Ruth Rea Mitchell Garden NYBG

The connections with plants and people continue with the Wild Medicine exhibition. Running until September 2013, the exhibition shows how important plants are to traditional and modern medicine and remedies (Westonbirt’s Tree Potions family event, 6-8 August, features a similar theme).

Wild Medicine exhibition interpretation NYBG

NYBG learning team interns greet visitors to the exhibition with facts and demonstrations. Sponsorship of family activities is something we have also undertaken at Westonbirt; with a previous Easter trail supported in product (chocolate rewards for the Easter Challenge trail) by the Co-operative.

Wild Medicine exhibition intern NYBG

Of course, as with Westonbirt, there are areas of tranquillity to escape to, including collections of conifers, cherries, lilacs and a rose garden.

This is a botanical garden for everyone and whilst there are many differences between Westonbirt and NYBG, the focus on the people who use and can benefit from the two attractions is a clear link and one that can be learned from.

It’s who you know! by Louise Bird, Head of Fundraising

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum’s Head of Fundraising, Louise Bird, and the Forestry Commission’s communications team at Westonbirt, Katrina Podlewska and Gina Mills, are currently in the USA, visiting their counterparts at arboretums and botanic gardens to find out who their visitors are, how they fundraise, and to learn from some of the best. The trip has been funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.

Polly Hill Arboretum

It was lovely to meet Tim and Karin from the Polly Hill Arboretum on Martha’s Vineyard. They were really generous with their time, talking to us about the work they do to both raise money for the arboretum and to raise the arboretum’s local and international profile. It was really interesting to hear just how intrinsically linked the 2 things are linked.

For a small arboretum they have been doing a fantastic job of fundraising. The secret of their growing success… people who already know and love and support Polly Hill arboretum championing it to their friends and peers who they think would love and support the arboretum if they got to know it too. It’s text book major donor fundraising and it works. (Well done to them for just raising $17 million to create an endowment for the arboretum!)

Links
Polly Hill Arboretum website: www.pollyhillarboretum.org

Places with personality, by Gina Mills, Marketing Officer

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum’s Head of Fundraising, Louise Bird, and the Forestry Commission’s communications team at Westonbirt, Katrina Podlewska and Gina Mills, are currently in the USA, visiting their counterparts at arboretums and botanic gardens to find out who their visitors are, how they fundraise, and to learn from some of the best. The trip has been funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.

The house where Polly Hill lived - now a library
The really striking thing about yesterday’s visit to the Polly Hill Arboretum was the parallels to be found with Westonbirt, despite the fact that the arboretums themselves are over 100 years apart in age.

An avenue of trees with a distinctive Martha's Vineyard dry stone wall behind it

The Polly Hill Arboretum was started by the late Polly Hill in 1958, when she inherited the farm that had been in her family for generations – like Westonbirt’s creator Robert Holford, the blank canvas for the arboretum she created was family land. Unlike him, she started her arboretum by planting seeds from scratch herself and waiting for them to germinate.

Rhododendron at Polly Hill Arboretum
Caring for the Polly Hill Arboretum also has parallels with Westonbirt. Like us, they try and honor the vision of their original creator. For example, they will never plant trees on the expanse of meadowland that lies at the back of the house she lived in, because her mother wanted to keep it this way and so did she.

Shingled barn at Polly Hill Arboretum
This former family farm is scattered with shingled outbuildings and houses dating to the 1700s. Polly Hill Arboretum is one of the few properties of this age open to the public on Martha’s Vineyard, and is another key reason to visit for many.

View into the conifer collection at Polly Hill Arboretum
Her distinctive approach is the reason that her arboretum is so unique. In a similar way Robert Holford’s adherence to the Picturesque principles of landscape design make Westonbirt such a unique experience, although Polly Hill’s approach does take a little more of the botanical order of things into account than Holford’s aesthetic approach.

The visitor centre at Polly Hill Arboretum
Another important personality at Polly Hill Arboretum is the late Dr David H. Smith. He was absolutely instrumental in making Polly Hill Arboretum into the public garden it is today. His interest in the work that Polly was doing blossomed into a great friendship. His generosity ensured that her vision of sharing her passion for plants and learning was realised.

Links
Polly Hill Arboretum website: www.pollyhillarboretum.org

Gifts that keep on giving! by Louise Bird, Head of Fundraising

Friday, May 24th, 2013

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum’s Head of Fundraising, Louise Bird, and the Forestry Commission’s communications team at Westonbirt, Katrina Podlewska and Gina Mills, are currently in the USA, visiting their counterparts at arboretums and botanic gardens to find out who their visitors visitors are, how they fundraise, and to learn from some of the best. The trip has been funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.

When it comes to raising money it is generally accepted that the Americans know what they are doing, which is why our trip to the States is going to be such a great learning experience. Yesterday’s visit to the Arnold Arboretum certainly set me thinking.

Around 90% of the arboretum’s costs are covered by its endowment… the gift that keeps on giving. The Holfords gave us Westonbirt Arboretum – what are we going to give the next generation?  Is it time to set up our own endowment, not only to give us better financial security but also to make sure our trees are loved and protected for ever more?

The Arnold Arboretum is free to enter.  Its members are members simply because they love the place and want to support it. Their membership is a gift to the arboretum and a gift to everybody in Boston who considers the arboretum to be “their backyard”.

Corylopsis (Hazel) bonsai tree

This Corylopsis (Hazel) bonsai tree is one of the trees in the Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection, donated to the Arnold Arboretum and enjoyed by thousands of visitors.

A trip to The Arnold Arboretum, Boston USA, by Gina Mills and Katrina Podlewska

Friday, May 24th, 2013

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum’s Head of Fundraising, Louise Bird, and the Forestry Commission’s communications team at Westonbirt, Katrina Podlewska and Gina Mills, are currently in the USA, visiting their counterparts at arboretums and botanic gardens to find out who their visitors visitors are, how they fundraise, and to learn from some of the best. The trip has been funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.

The Arnold Arboretum of the University of Havard is a 281 acre arboretum established in 1872. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted – one half of the team that designed Central Park in New York City – and welcomes 250,000 visitors a year.

Arnold Arboretum - wayfinding map

The Arnold Arboretum has many historical similarities to Westonbirt; both share tales of Victorian seed collecting, Victorian landscape design and a desire to share trees with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year through learning and science.

However, whilst Westonbirt focuses on the Picturesque planting principles, the Arnold uses the Bentham and Hooker style; providing an evolutionary journey for the visitor.

Arnold Arboretum - Magnolia 'Silver Parasol' M.hypoleuca x M.tripetala. Magnoliacae - magnolia family

The result is an arboretum focused on collections and families. Taking visitors on a tour through plant history – the prehistoric magnolias feature early on, passing through tulip trees, cedars, redwoods and maples, before coming to the spring favourites, the lilacs.

Lilac (Syringa)

Lilacs seem to be to Arnold as Japanese Maples are to Westonbirt – one of the most beloved of all of their plant collections. Every year in mid-May, the collection is celebrated on ‘Lilac Sunday’, a celebration of the 200+ kinds of lilacs which has taken place since 1908.

Calycanthus ‘Michael Lindsey’

We really enjoyed seeing Calycanthus ‘Michael Lindsey’, a cultivar of Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus), memorable because of the scent that is released from the petals when crushed which seemed particularly heady in the current humidity of Boston. Look out for Westonbirt’s very own bubblegum-sweet Calycanthus occidentalis on Loop Walk.

Curvy kerbs, by Sophie Nash, Project Officer

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Sophie Nash is Project Officer for the Westonbirt Project. She organises the logistics of the project, working with architects and project managers for various elements to deliver the works.

Part of the new road with stone parking bays taking shape.

Part of the new road with stone parking bays taking shape.

Between the stone parking bays we will be informally planting trees in the soil area that you can see in the photograph.

Between the stone parking bays we will be informally planting trees in the soil area that you can see in the photograph.

The road to the new coach park is looking very neat and is ready for final finishes.

The road to the new coach park is looking very neat and is ready for final finishes.

This is one of the soakaways for the car and coach park, when the grass and wildflowers grow it will merge in with the surrounding area.

This is one of the soakaways for the car and coach park, when the grass and wildflowers grow it will merge in with the surrounding area.

This is the stone road for the additional parking to the south of the main car parking area.

This is the stone road for the additional parking to the south of the main car parking area.

The timber curved kerb for the additional car parking - visitors using this area will park on grass on busy days.

The timber curved kerb for the additional car parking - visitors using this area will park on grass on busy days.

For more details about the Westonbirt Project, visit www.westonbirtproject.co.uk

Cherries looking sweet at Westonbirt Aboretum

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

A selection of some of the wonderful cherries currently in bloom at Westonbirt Arboretum. Photographs taken on 7 May 2013.

Images: Katrina Podlewska (Silk Wood) and Gina Mills (Old Arboretum) from Westonbirt’s communications team